For the best part of a day she was simply known as the woman with the dolphin tattoo.

Bound, gagged and imprisoned in the boot of a car the slightly built Asian woman had made a desperate bid for freedom, throwing herself on to a South Auckland street as Tuesday's evening rush started to ease.

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Struggling to breathe with a man's tie wound tightly around her neck and suffering major head injuries, Jindarat Prutsiriporn was rushed to nearby Middlemore Hospital, her identity still a mystery to everyone caught up in a bizarre, botched kidnap that had unfolded in an unsuspecting Papatoetoe neighbourhood.

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Unable to identify her and casting a sweeping two-decade age band, the police turned to her colourful inked artwork - a dolphin on her shoulder and an angel on her ankle - to help solve at least one vital piece of the puzzle; who was this mystery woman.

Within hours of releasing a photo of the critically injured woman's distinct blue bottlenose tattoo, she had been identified as a Thai-born 50-year-old who lived in Auckland. This gave family a precious few hours with her before she died in the hospital's intensive care unit later that night.

On her death police named the victim as Jindarat Prutsiriporn.

Police used an image of Jindarat's tattoo to help identify her. Photo / Supplied via police
Police used an image of Jindarat's tattoo to help identify her. Photo / Supplied via police

Now a complicated picture is beginning to emerge of a woman who was loved by friends and affectionately dubbed "pornstar", but who had links to a dark criminal drug world.

A friend said the woman she knew as Nui had a good heart but her bad choices kept getting in the way.

"Not a good background but she tried to make better choices and had a good heart," she posted on the New Zealand Police Conduct Association Facebook page.

"Her world got the better of her ... no one deserves this but at least she is at peace."

She said Nui always made people smile and hoped justice would follow.

A police cordon was put in place in Papatoetoe after Jindarat Prutsiriporn was found bound and gagged. Photo / Jason Oxenham
A police cordon was put in place in Papatoetoe after Jindarat Prutsiriporn was found bound and gagged. Photo / Jason Oxenham

The bad choices included spending two and a half years in jail in 2011 for drug offences including conspiring to import methamphetamine precursor pseudoephedrine.

When she died this week she was on bail and due to appear in court next month to defend methamphetamine-related drug charges.

Other friends have paid tribute to the woman who appears on social media with poise and a generous smile, in shock and disbelief at the violent end to their friend's life.

Jindarat Prutsiriporn had spent two and a half years in jail for drug offences. Photo / Supplied via Facebook
Jindarat Prutsiriporn had spent two and a half years in jail for drug offences. Photo / Supplied via Facebook

"Awww my friend... Love u Nui," posted Sonya Ryder.

"Sad alright," posted Elaine Ngamu. " I just told Tim how I met 'pornstar'. RIP"

Bessina Tereinamu Pehi-Tamatea wrote: "Naw sad azz my mate!!!!"

Police still continue to piece together the moments leading up to Ms Prutsiriporn's lunge from the boot, knowing that at least one of her horrific head wounds was likely to have been inflicted before she jemmied her way out of the boot.

Gang connection investigated

Speculation is mounting Ms Prutsiriporn was targeted by an international Asian gang syndicate.

Criminologist Greg Newbold said there were disturbing hallmarks that steered towards the botched kidnapping being ordered by an offshore gang boss in a mafia-style hit.

"If we're dealing with organised Asian crime groups who have links with big groups in Asia, then certainly it's possible."

He said this became even more plausible if Ms Prutsiriporn was negotiating a deal to give information in return for a reduction in her sentence or some sort of concession from police.

He said it meant police could be looking at a sinister form of crime at a higher and more organised level than previously seen.

"The fact that they're prepared to go that far suggests this particular crime is quite sophisticated and looks like high-level activity."

Police Commissioner Mike Bush today said officers were doing everything they could to find out what happened to Ms Prutsiriporn.

He said police were determined to find those responsible and bring them to account.

They were also making sure the dead woman's family had all the support they needed at this tragic time.

"They have lost a mother and a daughter and we are working round the clock to find justice for her," Mr Bush said.

He reassured the public they were in no danger and encouraged anyone with information to contact police.

Asian organised crime groups have been in New Zealand since the 1990s and were well established, especially in Auckland.

They were mainly involved in importing pseudoephedrine, counterfeiting, paua smuggling and extortion.